Brexit Timeline: From the Referendum to Article 50
Theresa May will trigger Brexit 40 weeks after Britons voted to leave the EU. Here’s what you need to know about everything that’s happened since.
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Back in June 2016, U.K. voters chose to leave the European Union. Soon afterwards Theresa May became prime minister and began stitching together a plan for the divorce. With the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, that split is now under way.
Since then, politics in Britain has been busy and unusual. Here’s a reminder of the key events between referendum day and the firing of the starting gun.
- June 23: The U.K. holds a referendum on whether to leave the European Union.
- June 24: The referendum result is announced, with 52 percent of voters choosing to leave the bloc. David Cameron resigns as prime minister and the pound plunges to a three-decade low. The Bank of England says it’s ready to support the financial system.
- June 25: The U.K.’s Jonathan Hill resigns as European Union financial-services chief in the wake of the Brexit vote.
- June 28: German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells Cameron ahead of a Brussels summit that there will be no informal talks before the U.K. triggers the breakup and that there can be no “cherry picking” of the best bits of EU membership.
- June 30: Home Secretary Theresa May formally declares her candidacy for the Conservative Party leadership and says “Brexit means Brexit.” Former London Mayor Boris Johnson says he won’t be a candidate for the job. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says the central bank will probably have to loosen monetary policy within months.
- July 5: Three of the U.K.’s largest real-estate funds freeze assets after the Brexit vote sparked a flurry of redemptions.
- July 8: Julian King, the U.K.’s ambassador to France, is nominated as EU commissioner to replace Jonathan Hill.
- July 13: May becomes prime minister, predicting Britain will “forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world.” She names Johnson as foreign secretary, David Davis as Brexit secretary, Liam Fox as trade secretary and Philip Hammond as chancellor of the exchequer.
- July 26: The Financial Times reports that Fox wants the U.K. to leave Europe’s customs union.
- July 27: May says the U.K.’s future trade relationship with the EU shouldn’t be “a model that’s on the shelf already.” The European Commission names Frenchman Michel Barnier to lead the EU’s Brexit negotiations.
- Aug. 2: May pledges a new industrial program to get economy “firing” after Brexit.
- Aug. 3: TheCityUK lobby group calls for U.K. to be able to access single market “under broadly similar conditions” to now.
- Aug. 4: The Bank of England cuts its benchmark interest rate to a record low 0.25 percent and expands its bond-buying program.
- Aug. 8: Bloomberg lists the red lines of the 27 other EU members.
- Aug. 19: Bloomberg reports that May’s team is leaning towards triggering Brexit by April 2017.
- Aug. 22: German, French and Italian leaders meet off the coast of Naples to discuss how to revive the EU’s outlook.
- Aug. 31: May tells her Cabinet that she won’t try to keep Britain in the EU by the “back door” and that “we’re going to make a success” of Brexit. She identifies ending the free movement of people as a U.K. red line.
- Sept. 5: Davis, under pressure from lawmakers to outline a plan, tells Parliament that Brexit means “we will decide on our borders, our laws and taxpayers’ money.” May attends her first Group of 20 summit and says she has ruled out a points-based immigration system.
- Sept. 6: May’s office says Davis was expressing his own view when he called it unlikely U.K. would stay in single market.
- Sept. 7: Hammond pledges to “help” banks maximize the opportunities of Brexit after meeting with executives.
- Sept. 8: Tomas Prouza, the Czech Republic’s top Brexit negotiator, says the U.K.’s current Brexit proposals are “completely unrealistic.” Hammond says EU will hurt itself if it attacks Britain’s finance industry.
- Sept. 10: Fox is reported by The Times to have said U.K. business leaders have become “too lazy and too fat” to export.
- Sept. 12: Cameron says he is quitting as a member of the U.K. Parliament. Davis says divorce from the EU and a new trade deal can be completed inside two years.
- Sept. 15: The government approves the building of a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, after delaying the decision.
- Sept. 16: Bloomberg News reports Hammond accepts that the U.K. may give up its membership of the single market. European leaders meet without the U.K. for the first time in four decades, trying at a session in Bratislava to build a shared vision for the bloc.
- Sept. 22: Johnson is rebuffed by May’s office after saying the U.K. expects to start Brexit talks in early 2017 and wrap them up in two years.
- Sept. 24: Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as leader of the opposition Labour Party.
- Oct. 2: May says she will trigger Brexit talks by the end of March. She also tells the Conservative Party conference she will introduce a “Great Repeal Bill” to bring EU laws on to the U.K. statute book so they can be reviewed later.
- Oct. 3: Bloomberg News reports financial-services companies will get no special favors in the Brexit talks.
- Oct. 4: Home Secretary Amber Rudd says companies may be asked to list foreign workers.
- Oct. 5: May attacks “elites” and says loose monetary policy has some “bad side effects.”
- Oct. 7: The pound plunges more than 6 percent in two minutes to its lowest level in 31 years in what becomes known as the flash crash.
- Oct. 10: Hammond tells Bloomberg that Britain is still open for business.
- Oct. 11: Davis says he can see advantages to sterling’s decline, arguing it will help exporters.
- Oct. 12: May says she will seek the “maximum possible” access to the EU single market. Tesco Plc and Unilever engage in a standoff over Brexit-related price increases for products including the iconic Marmite.
- Oct. 13: European Union President Donald Tusk says it will be “hard Brexit” or “no Brexit” as he warns there will be “no cakes on the table, for anyone” but rather “only salt and vinegar.”
- Oct. 17: May’s office says she has “full confidence” in Hammond after reports he clashed with colleagues over Brexit.
- Oct. 23: Anthony Browne of the British Bankers’ Association writes in the Observer the hands of bank executives “are quivering over the relocate button.”
- Oct. 25: May gives green light to an expansion of London’s crowded Heathrow airport.
- Oct. 27: Nissan Motor Co. says it will maintain production at its northern England plant after receiving “support and assurances” from the U.K. government. The Government said the company got no special favors. Trade Minister Mark Garnier tells Bloomberg that global banks will likely lose so-called passporting on Brexit.
- Oct. 31: The Bank of England’s Carney says he will extend his time in office by a year to 2019 to guide the economy through Brexit.
- Nov. 3: The High Court rules U.K. must hold a vote in Parliament before starting Brexit process. The government says it will appeal. The Bank of England acknowledges the economy has been “notably stronger” than it expected.
- Nov. 4: Newspapers criticize the High Court judges, with the Daily Mail declaring them “Enemies of the People.”
- Nov. 7: May’s trip to India results in a clash over immigration rules.
- Nov. 8: Donald Trump is elected U.S. president.
- Nov. 15: The Financial Times reports the EU is seeking as much as 60 billion euros from Britain when it leaves the bloc.
- Nov. 16: Italian minister Carlo Calenda says Brexit planning is in “chaos” and that he told Johnson “OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.”
- Nov. 18: German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with May and tells her they can’t currently have detailed talks on Brexit.
- Nov. 20: May tells business leaders she understands that they “don’t want a cliff edge” after Brexit.
- Nov. 21: Trump tweets that Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party would “do a great job” as Britain’s ambassador to Washington, a suggestion rejected later by the U.K. government. Davis and Barnier meet in Brussels.
- Nov. 23: Hammond delivers his budget and reveals the Office for Budget Responsibulty estimates Brexit means the government will need to borrow an extra 58.7 billion pounds.
- Nov. 24: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair says Brexit deal can be stopped if it doesn’t “stack up.”
- Nov. 25: May is told by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that any final Brexit deal will have to wait until an agreement on how much Britain will pay to leave the bloc.
- Nov. 28: A Conservative Party official is photographed in Downing Street with a memo that says Britain is unlikely to remain a member of the single market and asks “what’s the model? Have cake and eat it.”
- Nov. 29: EU President Donald Tusk tells U.K. lawmakers that Brexit is creating “anxiety and uncertainty” as he refuses to say whether U.K. citizens currently in the EU will be allowed to stay. Bloomberg reports that Barnier told EU governments there is only a small window of time to seal a Brexit deal.
- Dec. 1: Davis says Britain would consider making contributions to the EU to secure the best possible access for trade in the bloc’s single market. May’s office says that is a matter for the negotiations. May’s Conservative Party loses the parliamentary seat of Richmond Park in London after the pro-EU Liberal Democrats make it a test of her Brexit plans.
- Dec. 5: The Supreme Court convenes to decide whether Parliament or the prime minister has the power to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to trigger Brexit negotiations.
- Dec. 6: May says she will seek a “red, white and blue” Brexit. Barnier says she must first strike a divorce deal before establishing a new relationship with the EU and says a pact is needed by the end of 2018. Barnier says May must first agree to a future trade relationship before talks can begin on a transitional phase.
- Dec. 7: The House of Commons votes 448 to 75 in favor of May’s plan to trigger Brexit by the end of March 2017. Davis predicts “the most important and complex negotiations in modern times.”
- Dec. 15: EU leaders meet in Brussels without the U.K. and agree Barnier will have a representative of the EU members when conducting negotiations.
- Dec. 19: May hints she is willing to have a transition period after Brexit and make future payments to the EU.
- Dec. 20: Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon details red lines on keeping access to free trade and labor.
- Dec. 21: Deloitte LLP withdraws from government contracts after a leaked memo suggested May had no plan for Brexit.
- Dec. 23: Bloomberg reports that May is increasingly isolated as her demands to control all areas of policy alienate key colleagues.
- Dec. 31: May urges a national “coming together” in 2017 after the country was divided over Brexit.
- Jan. 3: Ivan Rogers quits as the U.K.’s envoy to the EU, saying the government is guilty of “muddled thinking” over Brexit.
- Jan. 4: The U.K. names career diplomat Tim Barrow to replace Rogers as envoy to the EU.
- Jan. 8: May signals in an interview with Sky News that regaining control of immigration and lawmaking are her Brexit priorities even if that means leaving Europe’s single market.
- Jan. 11: The Bank of England’s Carney says the risks to the economy have diminished since the referendum.
- Jan. 14: The government denies a report in The Times that the U.K. may have to hire an extra 30,000 civil servants to deal with the growing workload of Brexit. May uses a speech at London’s Mansion House to ease some of her anti-business rhetoric.
- Jan. 15: Hammond tells a German newspaper that the U.K. will do “whatever we have to do” to boost competitiveness if it fails to secure a Brexit pact.
- Jan. 16: Trump tells The Times that he will offer a quick and “fair” trade deal for the U.K.
- Jan. 17: May lays out her ambitions for Brexit at a speech at London’s Lancaster House. She says the U.K. is likely to leave the single market and seek a completely new trading relationship with the EU. HSBC Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver says bankers generating 20 percent of London revenue may leave the U.K.
- Jan. 18: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says Brexit talks will be “very, very, very difficult.” Britain’s Johnson warns French President Francois Hollande against behaving like a Nazi in a World War II movie.
- Jan. 19: May, during a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, tells Bloomberg Television that financial services are of “huge value” to the U.K.
- Jan. 24: The Supreme Court rules May must seek the permission of Parliament before starting the countdown to Brexit.
- Jan. 25: May bows to pressure to publish a so-called white paper on her Brexit negotiating plan.
- Jan. 26: The government introduces a 137-word bill in Parliament to win the right to trigger Brexit.
- Jan. 27: May meets Trump at the White House, at one point holding hands with him. Trump declares Brexit will be “fantastic” and agrees to work on a trans-Atlantic trade deal for after the split.
- Jan. 30: The U.K. says it won an exemption from a U.S. travel ban that May was slow to criticize.
- Feb. 1: The House of Commons approves May’s bill by 498 to 114 in a first vote as fellow Tories prepare to fight for amendments. Former EU envoy Rogers tells a parliamentary hearing that there will be an “unprecedently large negotiation,” while Fox says the idea of the U.K. having to pay a bill is “absurd.”
- Feb. 2: The Bank of England raises its forecasts for economic growth and inflation.
- Feb. 3: May attends a European Union summit in Malta.
- Feb. 7: Brexit Minister David Jones says Parliament can have a say on the final draft of the Brexit deal.
- Feb. 8: The House of Commons backs May’s bill 494 to 122 as she fends off amendments. May tells the New Statesman that she doesn’t feel she has a “weak hand” in the coming Brexit talks.
- Feb. 11: Davis says it will take “a long time” to tighten migration rules and that talented bankers will still be welcomed to Britain.
- Feb. 14: Davis predicts the House of Lords will make changes to the Article 50 bill, meaning the prime minister will be unable to start the Brexit process at an EU summit on March 9-10. PSA Group says it’s exploring an acquisition of General Motors’ European business, which may have implications for production in the U.K.
- Feb. 17: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair urges opponents of Brexit to “rise up” and fight to change the minds of people. Kraft bids for Unilever in a potential test of May’s industrial policy.
- Feb. 20: The House of Lords begins debating the draft law that would allow May to start Brexit talks. In an unusual move, she sits on the steps in the front of Royal Throne to watch the debate.
- Feb. 21: May wins the first stage of her clash with the House of Lords over her plan to trigger Brexit. The EU’s Juncker warns the U.K. will pay a “hefty bill” when it leaves.
- Feb. 22: Former Ambassador to the EU Rogers says it would be “insane” for the U.K. to leave the EU without a trade deal.
- Feb. 23: Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern becomes the first European leader to publicly say Britain should be charged about 60 billion euros when it leaves the EU. Bloomberg reports that Morgan Stanley is scouting for office space in Frankfurt and Dublin. May’s Tories win a seat from the opposition Labour Party in a special election in Copeland, in northwest England.
- Feb. 24: U.K. lawmakers lash out at talk of Brexit bill.
- Feb. 27: Former Prime Minister John Major warns May can’t deliver on her Brexit promises.
- Feb. 28: Davis tells Cabinet colleagues to prepare for the possibility of failing to reach a divorce deal.
- March 1: House of Lords amends the Brexit bill to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the U.K. Bloomberg reports that May is drawing up plans to protect against Brexit-related labor shortages by tailoring new immigration rules. Nissan warns it could face a 500 million-pound hit to profits should the U.K. face World Trade Organization tariffs.
- March 3: May slams Scottish National Party in bid to keep Scotland in the U.K. after Brexit.
- March 6: The Times reports that government lawyers have concluded there is no law or treaty to compel the U.K. to pay a severance fee.
- March 7: House of Lords amends Brexit bill to allow for a “meaningful vote” on final deal. Davis vows to try to overturn it in the House of Commons.
- March 8: Chancellor of the Exchequer Hammond uses his first budget to set aside a fiscal cushion of 26 billion pounds to protect the economy. He runs into criticism for raising a tax on self-employed workers. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto warns EU against “suicidal strategy” of alienating Britain.
- March 9: A German government memo stresses EU unity will be paramount in the talks. Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson says a U.K.-EU trade deal may take more than a decade to conclude.
- March 10: EU’s Tusk says the bloc will be ready to respond within 48 hours to the U.K.’s triggering Brexit talks. Germany’s Merkel says the other 27 EU states will hold a special summit on April 6 if the Article 50 letter arrives in the following week.
- March 12: May is told by a panel of lawmakers to prepare for the “real possibility” that Brexit talks collapse without a deal.
- March 13: U.K. officials say May will trigger Brexit in the final week of March. Parliament passes the law allowing her to do so without any amendments. Sturgeon says she will seek a second vote on Scottish independence.
- March 14: EU officials signal they might not start talks on Brexit until after a meeting in June.
- March 15: Hammond reverses a week-old tax hike on self-employed workers after criticism from fellow Conservatives. Davis tells a committee of lawmakers that the government hasn’t analyzed the effects of talks collapsing, but says they wouldn’t be “frightening.”
- March 16: May says “now is not the time” for a Scottish referendum. The Queen signs the Brexit-trigger legislation into law.
- March 17: EU officials tell Bloomberg that they are ruling out any discussions with May over a post-Brexit trade deal until she agrees to settle Britain's financial commitments. Former Chancellor George Osborne, a Remain backer, is named editor of the London Evening Standard.
- March 20: May’s spokesman confirms that the prime minister will invoke Article 50 on March 29.
- March 21: U.K. inflation gains more than forecast, breaching the Bank of England’s goal for the first time in more than three years. Executives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley signal they are activating plans to move jobs from London. BMW AG hinted it may shift production of the quintessentially English Mini car to mainland Europe.
- March 22: EU officials called for the bloc to prepare for the U.K. to walk out of the Brexit talks without a deal. Barnier says Britain must “settle the accounts” before a trade deal is discussed.
- March 24: Juncker tells the BBC that the exit bill is “around” 50 billion pounds.
- March 25: Ann Linde, Sweden’s EU affairs and trade minister, warns taking a hard line in Brexit negotiations will hurt the U.K. May visits Scotland where she says when the U.K. “sets its mind on something and works together with determination, we are an unstoppable force.”
- March 27: Davis says on the BBC that the Brexit bill will be “nothing like” the sums floated. He also says the government won’t put a cap on immigration. Bloomberg reports that May’s government is concerned the EU will seek to punish the U.K. for leaving the bloc.
- March 28: May says she wants “to secure a new deep and special partnership” with the EU and formally signs the letter invoking Article 50.
- March 29: At around 1:20 p.m. in Brussels, Barrow hands Tusk the letter which begins two years of talks. May tells lawmakers in London that “this is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back.”